The Golden Girls at Gay Bar the Rock Is In Desperate Need of a Laugh Track
As we were leaving for a matinee this past Sunday, my spouse said to me, "This has got to be the low point in your career." It was hard to argue with him, but I was hopeful that the play we were headed to — a live-action re-enactment of the TV sitcom The Golden Girls, staged at a local gay bar — would be fun and campy in some new and delightful way.
It was not. It was, instead, four men in dresses, reciting the script from this TV Land staple about four old babes who live together in Florida — and one of the worst scripts, too. This one involved Rue McClanahan's character (the slutty one) sharing a beau with Estelle Getty (the cranky Italian one) and the hilarity that ensues when the old guy dies. Except that there was no hilarity. Nor was there any attempt by the "actors" to impersonate the women they were portraying (which confused me — I thought that was the whole point of drag performance); no timing or blocking or much of anything theatrical.
Inserting naughtiness — muttered asides about condoms and lube and rather a lot of dry-humping, which drag queens apparently consider hilarious — didn't help. I did find it amusing that, unlike their television counterparts, these Golden Girls have silver Lurex draperies and a disco ball on their living room ceiling. What they don't have is a laugh track, which they needed, or anything much in common with the TV Golden Girls except that they all look like men in dresses.
The sitcom shtick was brilliant compared to the pre-recorded commercials — faked-up ads for hairspray and cures for "feminine odor" — that were projected onto a wall between scenes. The audience, mostly young men in black T-shirts with the arms sawed off, greeted these unfunny blackouts with stony silence.
There was one nice thing about this production: It was short; only a little longer than an actual half-hour sitcom. And I thought it was polite of one of the performers to warn us that there would be audience participation, although I didn't think it was necessary for him to describe exactly what it would entail and when it would occur.
At curtain call, one of the befrocked men warned us that if we didn't like the play they'd just presented, we should "shut the fuck up or we'll find out where you live." I was briefly frightened by this; I pictured a bearded Bea Arthur jumping out from behind my bougainvillea and forcing me into a garish, shoulder-padded pantsuit. But I'm not afraid of drag queens. I've witnessed a cross-gendered re-enactment of an '80s sitcom in a gay bar; nothing scares me anymore.
Get the Arts & Culture Newsletter
Find out about upcoming performances, exhibitions, openings and special events happening in the Phoenix art and theater scene.